A high school teacher in Ocala, Florida, who was caught on camera getting his students to help him drown raccoons and an opossum will face no criminal charges for the incident.
The state attorney’s office announced its decision Friday, The Ocala-Star Banner reported. In a letter explaining the decision, Assistant State Attorney Toby Hunt wrote that now-retired agricultural science teacher Dewie Brewton “did not intend to torture or torment” the animals.
Brewton sparked widespread backlash earlier this month after a video surfaced of him and a group of students at Forest High School putting a raccoon inside a metal trap into a garbage bin and filling the bin with water. The student who shot the video came home crying about the experience, his mother told local media at the time. The mother said that Brewton and the students had metal rods they used to hold the animals down when they attempted to come up for air.
The following local newscast, which contains some footage from the incident, may be disturbing to some viewers.
The teacher and students believed that raccoons were responsible for the deaths of multiple chickens being raised behind the school.
The school placed Brewton on administrative leave, and Superintendent Heidi Maier called for him to be fired. Instead, Brewton, who taught at the school for 31 years, announced his retirement on May 17.
It’s legal in Florida to kill “nuisance” wildlife, but the law specifies that the killing must be done in a “humane” way. Florida law states that “humane” is defined by the standards of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians or the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA, as the Star-Banner notes, explicitly says that drowning is an “unacceptable” form of euthanasia.
Hunt also noted that student involvement in the act complicated the possibility of prosecution.
“The majority of the video is of the students performing these acts,” Hunt’s letter statement said. “A number of parents contacted by FWC indicated that they did not want their children involved in this investigation. In order to introduce these videos into evidence, the state would need someone who was present at the incident to authenticate the videos before they would be admitted into evidence.”